Taking the Feedback Sandwich Off the Menu

The “Feedback Sandwich” is the good news, bad news, good news approach to giving feedback. “The good news is you’ve done a great job learning the ropes and getting up to speed quickly. The bad news is your colleagues think you’re overbearing and abrasive. The good news is we think you have a bright future here!”  While widely used and taught in management, the “Feedback Sandwich” leaves recipients with a case of heartburn and a feeling of being let down.

Here are some suggestions for providing palatable feedback:

  • Give feedback sooner than later. When you put off giving feedback one day, it makes it much easier to put it off for several days.
  • Be direct and honest about your feedback. Sugarcoating or glossing over key points to make it easier for you to deliver or to soften the message may leave the recipient wondering why the feedback is relevant.
  • Say the right thing at the right time. While it may seem you’re contributing something by focusing on the small details, you’re not. Reflect on the type of feedback that will have the most positive effect on the final outcome, and provide it at that time.
  • Be supportive and constructive. It will put you on the same side of the table as the person you’re giving the feedback to, making it more likely it will be considered and implemented.
  • Create a safe, confidential, and trusting environment for two-way dialogue. Allow for an even exchange of thoughts and encourage the recipient to ask questions and clarify the feedback.
  • Carefully consider who should be present during the meeting. The fewer people the better, out of respect for the individual receiving the feedback.
  • Talk half as much as you listen, even if you’re the person giving the feedback. Your feedback will be impactful if you’re focusing on how it’s being received.

Learning to give timely, well thought out, and genuine feedback to people, whether good or bad, is a skill that develops through time and practice. The more often you share quality feedback with others makes it so much more likely that they will trust and seek your guidance on a regular basis.

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